|Golden Trout Lake headwall out of Onion Valley|
Driving west from the little town of Independence will bring you to the popular trailhead at Onion Valley. From here the vast majority of hikers will continue west on the trail to Kearsarge Pass and points beyond. Not us. Today we took the little used trail northwest to Golden Trout Lake and then added the additional out and back to the lakes below Dragon Peak. In all it was only a little over 6 miles of hiking but the extreme grade and marginal trail made for a good workout.
The trail to Golden Trout Lake coincides with the Kearsarge Pass trail for a short distance, then continues north up a steep headwall that has flood eroded many times since the trail was built years ago. The use trail is easy enough to follow most of the way and getting lost isn't likely to happen if you can read a map or follow a gps track. The grade is steep to the lakes - 1000 feet per mile virtually all the way up. A variety of conifers greeted us in the canyon including firs, foxtail, limber, lodgepole, and whitebark pine. We had great weather all day in advance of the storm coming tomorrow.
|View south from headwall climb|
|Ancient Foxtail Pine|
|Approaching top of climb|
|Golden Trout Lake with Mt. Gould in back slightly left of center|
Our two destinations were separated by distinct glacial cirques and required backtracking from Golden Trout Lake about a half mile with a 400 foot descent before we could climb an equivalent amount to the small lakes at the base of Dragon Peak. This spectacular setting was worthy of another long break as we sat and admired the view. The nice thing about hiking so few miles is the opportunity to sit and relax, and soak in the scenery!
|Meadow at intersection of two trails. View toward Dragon Peak cirque|
|Rocky crag on way to Dragon Peak|
|Dragon Peak and upper lake|
Our birding day didn't stir up a lot of species but we did find a coot and Golden-crowned Sparrow at 11,440 feet elevation!
|View to Owens Valley and Inyo Mountains beyond|